June 6th will mark the one year anniversary of the debut of The Other 50%. For me, this is a huge landmark, as I didn’t know I’d be able to book 5 interviews, let alone 50 and counting. This past weekend, the women (and man) who have been on The Other 50% - a herstory of Hollywood had tea. We were able to get about 30 of us in a room to meet each other, network, support each other and reflect on what the last year has meant for this project. I am still overflowing with gratitude for everyone who came, and those who were there in spirit. It was a delicious afternoon and a powerful room.
I have been thinking a lot about my journey through this project and how it continues to evolve. I opened the tea with some remarks, and I wanted to share them here.
“Well first of all, welcome everybody and I am so glad you could come to our first ever anniversary tea for The Other 50% - a herstory of Hollywood edition. Can you believe it’s been a year? For those of you who don’t know what it is, I started a podcast last year where I talk to successful women in Hollywood and hear their stories.
And I have to thank the people who made this tea possible. Jennifer Bender of Central Casting and Joe Chianese of EPFS have generously sponsored this tea and I am very grateful for their support.
I am also incredibly grateful to all of you. You bravely said yes, when I said I was doing this thing and would you please participate. You were all incredibly generous. Ginny Nugent sent me a list of 100 possible names – 2 of those were The Other 50% and a herstory of Hollywood. She even sent me her intern at one point. And I think almost everyone introduced me to someone else - until this thing has taken on a life of its own and I can barely keep up with the referrals and the interviews. In fact the big regret of my life, and yes I have one, is that I didn’t call Debbie Reynolds in November when someone gave me her number.
And more than your generosity, you told me your story – with bravery, vulnerability, and humor. And that sharing of your stories has meant so much. And we have had some excellent laughs. Mostly at being called the c-word on set, or breastfeeding in awkward places, or the absurdity of providing craft service on the film you are directing.
I want to tell you some of the things I have learned this first year. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think I went into this thing with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I think I was looking for evidence – that there is discrimination, and unconscious gender bias, that it is harder for women, that husbands sometimes don’t pull their weight, that being a breadwinner is tricky for a woman in relationship. Of course, it is possible I was just working out some of my own stuff. And yes, that can all be true, and we didn’t need any more evidence.
But here’s the thing – in spite of all that, or maybe even because of it – women (all y’all) are badass powerful forces to be reckoned with. As for me, I am a lot less angry and way more inspired. There is a point I every conversation where the hairs on my arms stand up and I think – yes – that is it! That is the thing we need to hear!
And here’s the other side of it. I was pretty intimidated by all of you. And you couldn’t have been nicer or warmer or more humble. So many of you asked me why on earth I wanted to interview you. Which I think is hilarious, because you should hear how the other women talk about you. For every woman who has done the show, there is another equally impressive woman who said, oh my god, she was amazing. And, I have also found out there are some women who listen to every episode, have their own story to tell, and are too afraid to tell it – it’s too risky for their career.
There is a woman I met on twitter. I don’t even know her real name. She works in the business. She sends me messages fairly frequently – suggesting guests, or commenting on an episode – but I can’t convince her to tell her story. She says the reason is that there has been so much resistance in her career, it isn’t safe to tell her story. Which is why I think she needs to tell her story.
I get it. It’s risky. It’s risky to do what feels like endangering your livelihood, your career. I was afraid when I started this. If it was so hard to get there, you fear being punished for talking about how hard it was. And you might be. And that takes bravery of a higher order. But I really think if everyone tells their story – rips back the cloak of darkness that allows shitty behavior to continue – then it brings in the light. Makes it transparent. Makes the boogieman disappear, and what looked like a scary clown hanging in the corner, is really just your bathrobe.
If we all wait until we are safe, until our 401Ks are fully funded, until there is no more risk – it will never change. We will have another generation of women who believed in Marlo Thomas’ Free to be You and Me, and then were disappointed to find out it wasn’t quite true yet.
So, keep telling your story. It’s not about blaming and pointing fingers and being a victim. We are not victims. But tell the facts of your narrative so they can be seen. So we can collectively choose a different narrative. A narrative where there is equal opportunity, equal reward, equal criteria – where we can finally stop talking about equality and representation, because we will actually have it. Until we do, we can’t stop talking about it, and isn’t that exhausting? I‘ve had men call me after listening and say, “I had no idea. I had no idea what women go through.” So, something is working.
I go back and forth all the time on this one point…is this a mission, is this a show? Mission/show? And sometimes I get all twisted up in my head about the mission, and the purpose and the desired outcome, and my position on this wave of feminism, and intersectionality and diversity, and then I tell myself to calm down this is just a show, make it entertaining.
But, I also know it is a mission. If we have inspired one person to follow their dreams and keep going and think bigger– mission accomplished. As Geena Davis says: if you can see it, you can be it. You are showing them what it looks like. And by the way, who was going to introduce me to Geena Davis?
Ok, so that was a very long winded way of saying – thank you. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are in this club. This project has already changed my life and it would not have happened without all of you. So thank you. And I hope you have gotten something out of it too. And thank you Jen and Joe for helping to put everyone in one room – cause how good is this room?
I know a lot of you know each other, but not all of you. So, I would love to do a quick introduction around the room and I’m going to ask you to introduce yourselves, not because I don’t know your names, but I am so afraid of saying the wrong thing about someone and then I would have to replay that all night long and I need to sleep – because I have a broken leg. So, let’s introduce everyone, and then let’s have tea – like civilized ladies.”
And we did.